This story was superb. This could just as easily be titled “Deconstructing the Perfect American Family.” Giuliano Long creates the perfect storm in this family: take an already strained marriage suffering the long-term after-effects of infidelity, the colossal parental mistake of living vicariously through your children and pushing them toward your own unrealized goals, and a rebellious teen unable to handle the pressure, hellbent on racing toward every unhealthy thing she can, and you have this book.
Having been a rebellious teen, and having raised a rebellious teen, this story is dead on. When you hear about someone’s child spinning out of control, you don’t think about the ripple effect. You simply see the destruction the child is wreaking in his or her own life. But the effects throughout an entire family–sometimes even through an entire community–are far-reaching, and Giuliano Long captured that aspect perfectly.
There are no perfect people in this story who did exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, every time. Instead, there is a flawed husband and wife, both trying to stay faithful despite the tremendous stress of their daughter’s behavior, trying to stay patient, worried out of their minds. There is a younger sister, as different from super-athlete Leah as she can be, desperate for her sister’s approval, desperate to make her parents see their mistakes, desperate to hold everyone together. And then there is Leah herself, the anti-heroine, her logic tragically unsound, colored by immaturity and angst, whose splash in the rebellion pond causes a tsunami through her entire family.
I think every parent should read this novel–whether you’re through your teen’s rebellion and undergoing triage, or whether you’re in the midst of your own perfect storm. And if you plan to be a parent, read this first. It’s a succinct guide of what NOT to do.